Community of Faith Articles

We have historically submitted articles of reflection to the Missoulian Newspaper, but we also want to make sure everyone has a chance to read and reflect. Below you can find some of our Articles.

Generosity

Greg Grallo

One of the first practices offered to laypeople in Buddhist culture is the practice of generosity.

Monastics give up everything except for a few robes and bags and a begging bowl. From the time of the

Buddha, the monastics were wholly dependent on the generosity of laypeople. It hearkens back to

ancient India and the interdependence on the spiritual monastic path and the path of laypeople.

Generosity keeps access to teachings and the mendicant life alive. Many churches and organization rely

on the generosity of their members in a similar way.

This practice of generosity extends far beyond offering donations. Gifts of time and presence are part of

it as well. However, one surprising result is that practicing generosity changes a person’s view of one

another.

The generosity that I am referring to here is the generosity of spirit. We are constantly comparing and

contrasting ourselves to others, whether that is a physical comparison, economic, or any other quality

you might imagine. This comparison is the opposite of generosity. Generosity, then, is a practice of

allowing people to be who they are as they are, not in relation to us. Just as we extend our wealth or

time to people or causes we wish to see continue, we can extend our allowing of people to be

themselves. If you have been the recipient of this wide-open acceptance before, you know that it really

is a gift. Our whole being seems to relax and just be.

Recently, it seems like people need to justify their existence to one another because they look or

identify in a particular way. This speaks to the poverty and tightness many of us have in our views. I

struggle in myself to feel generosity towards speech and ideology that is harmful and exclusionary.

Generosity comes about when I can hold a person’s need to be affirmed and supported, while at the

same time rejecting the idea that the only way to have those needs met is to put others down.

Maintaining generosity of one another is not the same as believing or supporting their views, but to

recognize that there are some deep needs being met by those views; needs such as protection, self-

worth, or inclusion (in a group).

Unfortunately, many of us are taught to believe in a view of scarcity and led to believe that we must

defend our beliefs so that others will not take them from us. If people are different, we demand that

they justify themselves to us. I say “we” because I’m sure any of us can imagine situations where we

have a scarcity mindset around something or someone.

Generosity becomes a radical practice when we assume good intentions and look deeply beyond the

surface views and into what tender need is being addressed. Generosity of our material goods builds

this practice of openness and generosity of spirit in our lives. This kind of generosity invests in the

greatest resource we have: one another.

Greg Grallo is an ordained Dharma Teacher in the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism. He is a

member of Open Way Sangha and serves as a chaplain at St Patrick Hospital and the Unitarian

Universalist Fellowship of Missoula. He is the owner of Foundational Dialogues Mediation and

Facilitation LLC and can be reached at https://www.openway.org/ or foundationadialogues@gmail.com

Some Spring Cleaning

Pastor Mat Goodrich Missoulian Article March 23, 2024


As we are moving towards Easter Sunday, my church is having a Spring-Cleaning Day, where we invite our congregation and groups that use our space to come and clean the building. This gives the spaces almost a breath of fresh air. I am sure at some point, many of us have done spring cleaning in our own homes (or at least said “I’ll do that tomorrow”). But as I am thinking about the season of lent (which we are in right now for churches/faith communities that follow the Christian liturgical calendar), there is this idea of renewal and change that comes with the end of the season, which is Easter.

Now, the season of Lent is about this idea you may have heard of before called “repentance,” which in my experience has some negative connotations. The basic idea is that repentance is recognizing that you are doing something wrong, acknowledging and apologizing as applicable and then changing your ways to not do that anymore. But the problem is that often the last part of that gets missed, the changing your ways.

Now, this concept is one from my faith, but realistically can be used by anyone in your life. Think of doing an exercise like this. Take some time for self-reflection, where do you see where things can be improved or where you may have not been doing the best thing (and keep in mind, you can be doing this not only to others, but to yourself as well). Acknowledge this and apologize and then work on doing better in your life. This is some Spring Cleaning for the self.

Now just imagine if we all participated in doing this spring cleaning, how much better might we all be? Will be have a better relationship with ourselves? With our neighbors? With our community? And the thing to remember (like with all forms of cleaning) it will need to be done again and again, because things get dirty, things need work, we might struggle. This is where my faith says that we hold grace. We make sure to give the opportunity for someone to get back up after they have fallen down, and perhaps even give them a hand.

So I invite you to do some spring cleaning this week, this year. And don’t wait to get to it tomorrow, because as I have learning in cleaning my home, that means a lot more work for me tomorrow than if I had just gotten it done today.

Thank you, and Happy Spring!

Please note: I am not advocating for anyone to stay in unsafe situations, in fact getting out of unsafe situations can indeed be spring cleaning. If you need help, please know that there is help available.


A Spiritual Hijacking

Rev. Jean Larson Missoulian Article March 16, 2024

I couldn’t tell you when my spirit got hijacked. But my dear husband Daniel could sure tell you what it looked like. He would be innocently watching “Meet the Press” downstairs on Sunday morning, and I would go down there to retrieve something before church. Should I happen to walk in on a politician of a certain stripe defending the (to me) indefensible, I would freak out. I’d holler and call them nasty names and make obscene gestures and get out of there as fast as I could.

This was unpleasant for Daniel. He kept his own counsel, God bless him. But I had vowed to tenderly care for him and was failing badly. This hyper-reactivity was no fun for me, either, and my self-image as a calm, rational, centered person took multiple hits. I got tired of myself, and came to dread this election year which would be a feast for my demons.

And then Lent came along--my favorite season of the church year, with its call to dig deeper spiritually and focus on the profound work of Christ. “Return to me with all your heart, the Source of grace and mercy. Come, seek the tender faithfulness of God,” (Marty Haugen, “Now the Feast and Celebration.”) We would sing this before the gospel is read, and it worked its way in me.

Pondering God’s invitation, I realized that I had made a wrong turn. Full of good intentions, I had exchanged Christian models of well-being for political ones. The goal was justice, and it takes public policy to get there. It does. But my standard for evaluating progress had shrunk to electoral wins and legislative victories. Since these are hard to come by in Montana (by my read of Christian ethics), I have become thoroughly demoralized, de-energized, and mad.

I realized I had to re-center Christ, to feast not on political strategy but on the generous and gracious love of Jesus and his community. This might sound schmaltzy but it’s not. The love of Jesus is bracing, radical compassion that is not at all comfortable or simple-minded or easy. At least for me.

Now I’m back to playing the long game--taking seriously Jesus’ command to love my neighbor and my enemy, which precludes those TV shenanigans. I haven’t yet figured out how to engage the important political work of seeking justice for poor, hungry, bombed people without turning back into a madwoman. I bet I’m not alone, for we do live in an exceptionally crazy-making and dangerous time in our life together. But of course we are not off the hook.

God works through our agency. I am grateful for activist friends and strangers on the front lines, doing the work of the beloved community. Thank you! My spirit is not set up to be with you right now. After a time in political detox, steeped in the grace of God, I trust I will find a way to step it up.

For now, it’s back to the basics for me: worship, scripture, study, prayer. Curate the news with care. Love the family. Groom the horse. Scoop the poop. And trust that God will make something out of it all.

Sacred Gifts

Rev. Carrie Benton, Mountain Lakes Presbyterian Church

I read a story recently about a woman who looked out her window and noticed something beautiful: sunlight glistening on moist leaves. Immediately prior to this, the day was very gloomy, as was her mood. But that brief moment of light reminded her of beauty and she recognized it as a sacred gift.

I need this kind of reminder again and again. The reminder to lift my gaze and pay attention to all the wondrous beauty and goodness, to those moments of light breaking through, moments of kindness unexpectedly shown, moments of joy and laughter emerging by surprise.

Attending to the sacred gifts we are surrounded by does not mean we ignore all the pain and suffering, confusion, or violence. Rather, we recognize that even in the midst of all the horror, God still shows up with sacred gifts. Because God is good.

So often we miss the sacred gifts right in front of us because we are caught up in the tangle of division, disgust, anxiety, suspicion, loneliness. Lord knows there’s enough of this to go around wreaking all sorts of havoc.

When we are caught up in this tangled web it usually takes an act of our loving God to show us the thread that might begin our untangling. And indeed, this is what God does. God does not want us to stay all tangled up, but to experience the freedom of letting go. At the same time, God will not force our disentanglement without our permission, nor without our participation.

I was given a glimpse of a beautiful thread inviting me to participate in my own disentanglement last fall. As I was waiting in line with some friends (on foot at the drive- through coffee kiosk) we were overcome with some recent heaviness. The driver in front of us noticed our teary embrace and, unbeknownst to us, paid for our coffee drinks. A thread of hope, a sacred gift.

We pulled on this thread. While we couldn’t tell this person “thank you” as they had driven off before we were aware of this act of love, we could pass along the same gracious kindness, knowing how meaningful such small acts can be. I mean, who doesn’t like free coffee or tea? I wonder if that person knows what a sacred gift they gave us. I wonder if they know that it inspired us to do the same. Tugging on the thread, the pain still present but not as tangled up in us as before.

For me, this was a sign of hope for humanity. Hope is something we all need right now. That’s what sacred gifts often can be, if we let them. In all the drudgery, in all the mean rhetoric and political fervor, these simple sacred gifts are signs of divine hope. I pray for the eyes to see them, the ears to hear them, and the mouths full of gratitude to name them. Thanks be to God. Amen.